You Cannot Be Serious!

20 February 2020

In the many years in which I have been practising in the area of management rights I have heard some amazing, even unbelievable, stories. However I was genuinely shocked by something a client recently rang me about to discuss.

My client, of Chinese origin, was a manager at a complex in Brisbane for a number of years. He enjoyed a good relationship with almost all of his owners and tenants. We were successful in achieving an extension of the term of the agreements and the Gallery Vie changes such was the support he had amongst the owners, despite dealing with somewhat difficult body corporate lawyers.

When my client sold some months later with the same lawyers acting for the body corporate the transaction took longer that was necessary but we eventually obtained the consent of the committee to the assignment and went about having the deed of assignment executed by the relevant parties.  Because of the delays on the part of the committee and the body corporate’s lawyers we only had a couple of days before settlement to have the deed executed.

My client received a call from the husband of the chairperson who asked my client to go to their unit to have the deed signed. When my client arrived the chairperson’s husband demanded $10,000 cash from my client before he would hand over the signed deed. My client was taken aback and was at a loss to know what to do. Fearful that if the signed deed would not be handed over and the sale would be jeopardised my client and his wife went to their bank, each withdrew $5,000 from each of their accounts (the most cash the bank would allow each to withdraw at the one time) and paid it to the chairperson’s husband.

My client wondered whether he was being taken advantage of because he was Chinese, whether this type of demand was common and what if anything he should do about what had happened. My client tells me he agonised over the matter until many months later when he called me to tell me what had happened. My client did not seek my advice nor did he want to sue the person to whom the money was paid. Rather, he wanted me to tell someone about what had happened and do what he could to make sure it did not happen to others.

Whilst my initial reaction was to encourage him to go to the police and have the person charged with fraud or extortion, my client was genuinely concerned about the impact that might have on the current manager and also about the trauma and uncertainty he would face in proceeding with the charges. A person who extorts another is likely to be someone who will lie to protect themselves and given the passing of considerable time since the event itself, the credibility of my client’s evidence would be open to challenge. In the end my client decided to leave the matter rest but asked if I would publicise his experience so that others might be aware of it possibly happening to them and what to do if it did.

I hope I am correct in my expectation that this was an extremely rare criminal act but if anyone finds themselves in such a situation you should immediately report it to your lawyer who will advise if and how best to deal with the matter, how you might gather evidence of the extortion and how to report it to the police. Whatever the threats made I would strongly discourage you from giving in to the demands.